artNotes from Hyde House: Part I – 5 Years and Counting -The Art of Making a New Life


One by one, week after week, on our Sunday walks along a creek in the woods, I picked them up—5 wee empty bottles—half hidden beneath fallen leaves, twined in muscadine vines draped over the ground, pressed face down in a bed of moss, floating at the edge of the water and half buried in the mud. Bringing them home, I unscrewed the lids, rinsed out the tiny plastic flasks and stood them in a marching row atop a studio chest that holds my art supplies. I figured they would become art someday, I just did not know how or when.

Inspiration came as an email from Spiva Center for the Arts announcing the “call for entries” for the 75th MEMBERSHIP SHOW that will be the first Spiva exhibition to be installed in the Harry M. Cornell Arts & Entertainment Complex in Joplin. In an instant I knew that I would make and deliver my shrine as my entry. During my Sunday studio afternoons I have made a shrine. I will make my delivery in a few weeks and be pleased to see my little shrine hanging in the company of amazing regional art in Spiva’s sanctums.

Making a new work of art can take courage. You put your heart on the line. You reveal your unclothed soul. Determined to seek and find joy, on the way you may go to places you did not know you would go, places that can make you feel uncomfortable, places you may not like. You must be brave. Though you become nakedly vulnerable to acceptance or rejection, you must carry on. You must surrender and allow the Force to flow through you.

Courage, determination, bravery and surrender are essential when making a new work of art: likewise when you are making a new life.


Five years ago, I signed on to make the art of a new life with my partner, David Greenwood-Mathé. I offered one proviso before our marriage: David had to stop drinking. He did. After a 52-year drinking career, David has been sober for 5 years—5 years sober and counting, as he rounds the bend into his 71st year of living.

To my brave and beloved husband I send this birthday wish…“May your 71st birthday be fabulously happy and may the new year before you be filled with many blessings of sobriety and with many, many more to come.”

I have heard you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. Maybe…but I am witnessing a brave, old soul create a brand new life! I feel deeply happy for David, and for our sharing his new life together! My 5 bottle shrine honors the sobriety journey we have made so far, though the journey has not been easy and the journey is not done.

The backdrop for my shrine, purchased for three dollars at an “old stuff sale”, is a rusty red tray lifted out and discarded and long separated from the tool box that was once home. Turned on one long side, the tray can be imagined as a very narrow and shallow room with a ceiling and a floor, two side walls, a back wall and the front wall missing for looking inward.

The 5 bottle caps—black, red, gold, black and black—stride across the floor of the shrine. The 5 empty bottles, from left to right—Black Heart Premium Spiced Rum, Fireball Red Hot Cinnamon Whiskey, World Famous Dr. McGillicuddy’s Intense Butterscotch Liquor followed by one then another Wild Turkey American Honey Exceptionally Smooth Liqueur—are all turned neck down and suspended in the fashion of an arching rainbow. Hung on the back wall among the bottles are 2 photo booth images of a handsomely jaunty, cigarillo smoking young sailor dressed in street clothes while on shore leave.

To be continued….

Until then, come visit the beautiful paintings of SPIRITUAL SPACES in the Hyde House galleries through September 17. Weekend gallery hours: Fridays and Saturdays, 12:00-5:00 p.m.